Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘stiff necks and hard hearts’


nile mapMonday, September 13, 2021

Jeremiah 42

. . . You Are Remnant

 

If you remain quietly in this land I will build you up, and not tear you down . . .

We will know when we are closest to God when our hearts are broken.

I will plant you, not uproot you . . .

We will know that God is near when we hear the call to make reparation.

For I regret the evil I have done you . . .

When we most feel like abandoning a place or a relationship, we will know that restoration is at hand.

Then listen to the word of the Lord, remnant of Judah.

When we repent our own broken vows, when we remain rooted and bloom where we are planted . . .

The Lord has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel. 

When we build bridges with our enemies . . .

The Lord has brought them back from the land of the north.

When we move forward into true union and intimacy with God . . .

The Lord will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child, they shall return as an immense throng. 

When we ask nothing more than to do God’s will . . . then we will know that we are remnant.

They departed in tears, and the Lord will console them and guide them; the virgins will make merry and dance, and young men and old as well.  

So let us sing with our remnant companions . . .

The Lord will turn their mourning into joy, the Lord will console and gladden them after their sorrows.

And let us call others to the dance . . .

Cease your tears of mourning, wipe the tears from your eyes, the sorrow you have sown shall have its reward.

Let us recount how the Lord has rescued us . . .

There is hope for your future.

And let us remember that we are God’s beloved . . .

How long will you continue to stray o rebellious daughter?  

Let us tell others of the wonders of God’s love . . .

The Lord has created a new thing upon the earth.

Let us soften our hearts and unbend our stiff necks . . .

The Lord will place a new law within them, and write it upon their hearts.

Let us agree to be God’s people . . .

“I will be their God”, says the Lord, “and they will be my people”. 

For there is nothing more worthy than remaining faithful to God . . . there is nothing more worthy than becoming remnant.


Image from: http://www.keyway.ca/htm2012/20121230.htm

Adapted from a reflection written on October 7, 2007.

Read Full Post »


Monday, August 9, 2021

Jeremiah 19

The Dust of Topheth

For information on the town of Topheth, the priest Pashur, the gods Baal and Molech, and how Jeremiah’s predictions play out, enter the words The Potter’s Flask into the blog search bar and explore. 

Broken Pottery

Broken Pottery

Ancient society can be traced through its pottery. Ceramic pots were ubiquitous. They were designed, created and decorated by artisans to hold or carry everything from water and food to medicines and even funeral offerings. For more on this ancient craft, visit: http://www.ancient.eu/pottery/

Today, we spend time with Jeremiah and image of the broken jug.

The Dust of Topheth

The name of Topheth we utter no longer, its singular offering is shame and amazement.

The potter’s flask floats before us; yet we convince ourselves that our walls are exempt.

Our circumstance is special; our creation unique.

So well loved, we cannot stray.

So well nourished, we cannot fall.

The Valley of Slaughter is distant; yet Baal and Molech await first-born offerings with leery eye and eager lip.

Status and wealth build narrow walls against approaching truths.

So well tended, we cannot falter.

So well equipped, we cannot fail.

Prophets raise shadow arms to pronounce sacred words with parched throats while Pashur gathers warm beds against the arriving storm.

Deaf ears and silent hands cast down the potter’s flask where it lies broken with the bones of those who grapple with falling city walls.

So well guided, we cannot lose our way.

So well protected, we cannot perish.

And yet Adonai is near.

In the still of destruction the house of Jerusalem lives in the hearts of the remnant.

Israel breathes yet in the faithful who bore Topheth on exhausted backs and empty bellies.

Stiff necks and hard hearts vanish with the grime of rubble . . .

Leaving the hearts of the faithful to rise in the dust of Topheth.


Image from: http://foraseason.blogspot.com/2009/01/jeremiah-191-15.htmlFriday,%20August 22, 2014

Read Full Post »


hard-heartFriday, August 6, 2021

Jeremiah 17:1-11

Obstinacy

Jeremiah speaks so much about the human heart, that place where God speaks, that place where God writes, that place that chooses to respond to the Call we know we hear. Today’s reading is about the stony heart, the hard heart that accompanies the stiff neck, the heart that turns away from Wisdom and so becomes cold and lifeless.

Jeremiah predicts that God will write a new covenant (31:31), a new message on our hearts of stone.  Just as the Israelites turned back to God after having worshiped false gods, so will we once we hear the message of the voice that speaks in that inner place – the only place we trust.

Jeremiah also tells us that the Lord has in mind wonderful plans for us, plans for our joy rather than tears, plans for a newness of heart (29:11).

What is it that hardens hearts and stiffens necks?  The writers of the MAGNIFICAT Mini-Reflection tell us that it is pride when we believe that we have all of the answers to all the world’s problems when in truth we have none.  The true answers to the deepest of mysteries are opened to us by Wisdom that comes to us when we trust only in God.

Pride sets subtle snares.  Whenever we imagine that we are in control of life – our own or someone else’s – we have fallen prey to the ancient whisper in the Garden: “You shall be like Gods”.  Mortality is the enduring reminder that we become like God not by our own power but by the power of the cross.  (Cameron 270-271)

We constantly forget that we are already divine. We repeatedly succumb to the subtle call of pride. We regularly forget that we learn best when we fail. Obstinacy in our own plans brings pain. Perseverance and faithfulness are gifts of the Spirit.  Pride in our possessions and accomplishments brings disappointment. Obedience and patience are joy. Hardness of heart brings narrowness. Softness of heart opens the mind, body and spirit. Once we agree to kneel in order to crawl though the Eye of the Needle, we will know Christ’s healing power. The power he gained through his own refusal to succumb to the siren call of pride. The life he gives when we put aside all obstinacy.


Adapted from a reflection written on August 19, 2008.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 19.8 (2012): 270-271. Print. 

Image from: https://therock.life/

Read Full Post »


crossroads1Thursday, August 5, 2021

Jeremiah 16

Walking in Hardness

We have all experienced the neighbor who has nothing good to say about anyone or any circumstance; they are old before their time; they believe themselves expert on all aspects of life and death. We all have acquaintances who refuse to see reality; they reject information about local or global events; they see themselves as isolated entities unaffected by the world’s happenings. Perhaps we are the curmudgeons who scowl across back yard fences; or perhaps we are work colleagues who refuse to accept reality. Whether we see the world as bleak or promising, we each must assess our pathway in it. We must evaluate where we walk in hardness or in Christ.

Jeremiah today describes his condition and it is not a happy one. He suffers greatly at the hands of those who, instead of blaming, ought to be thanking him. He speaks truth and yet is accused of lying. As he delivers God’s words, he confronts both naysayers and Pollyannas and knows that he is seen as a fool. This message came to me, he begins; and rather than ask to hear the words of truth that will bring them into The Way, his audience prefers the way of hard hearts and stiff necks. Fortunately for us, the Lord says: I will bring them back to the land which I gave their fathers. God always welcomes us home. Fortunately for us, Jeremiah persists in his fidelity to God. He persists in delivering his message. Fortunately for us, the prophet is faithful in conveying God’s words that ask where and how and why we walk.

Let us spend some time today looking in a quiet, spiritual mirror to reflect on our own hardness of heart and our openness to God, for we all try to spend a time in both those paths. Let us think about our commitment to knowing God well and responding to God’s call to soften ourselves. And let us examine our response to these words: O Lord, my strength, my fortress, my city in the day of distress!

Where do we go in our day of distress? Where and how and why do we walk? Is it in the way of hardness, or is in The Way of Christ?

Which path do we choose?


Enter the words The Way into the blog search bar and examine where and why and how we walk. Or examine the four scripture versions of Jeremiah 16 by clicking on the scripture link, choose different versions of this prophecy and listen to God’s word in a new way. 

For a reflection on Jeremiah’s celibacy and some thoughts on suffering and joy as seen through this prophet, enter the words The Source of Life into the blog search bar and explore. 

Image from: https://djastinconfessions.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/crossing-paths/

Read Full Post »


Monday, September 21, 2013

panier-fruits[1]Amos 8:1-2

Ripe Fruit

This is what the Lord showed me: a basket of ripe fruit. “What do you see, Amos?” he asked. I answered, “A basket of ripe fruit”. Then the Lord said to me: The time is ripe to have done with my people Israel; I will forgive them no longer”.

Still the dreadful visions assault us – presenting a God who exacts punishment for acts of commission against the weak and vulnerable, for acts of omission for the times we have not answered God’s call. These images conjure up our worst fears. We do not like the ugliness of these scenes. We shrink from the exacting accountability that challenges us. We reject this God of terror and fear.

God says:  My servant Amos was not an eager prophet – he preferred to tend his flocks of sheep and prune his orchards of sycamore trees – yet he answered my call. These visions are not meant to frighten you but they are a reality we must confront with honesty.  My heart yearns to soften those hearts of stone that subjugate the vulnerable, those stiff necks that turn away from my lambs who suffer.  My arms take up all those who run or fly to me.  I mean to inspire love, awe and joy.  These cruel visions are not my hope for you; rather, they are a genuine reflection of the viciousness that is always an option before you.  They are the cruelness each of you may choose if you choose the evil road. Look into your own hearts.  Turn away from this violence and come to me. 

What is the ripe fruit we offer to God?  How do we answer God’s call?


What do we do about famine in our world?  To read about Hunger in the world today, go to: http://www.actionagainsthunger.org/impact/nutrition?gclid=CJuMoqL70LkCFYWd4AodbgwAYQ

What do we know about Refugees in our world? Examine facts about refugees today at: http://www.unhcr.org.uk/about-us/key-facts-and-figures.html

For a reflection on Amos 8, click on the image above or go to: http://cove-bibletalk.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-lectionary-passages-for-sunday-july_17.html

Image from: http://cove-bibletalk.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-lectionary-passages-for-sunday-july_17.html

Read Full Post »


Monday, September 7, 2020

soft-heart[1]Baruch 2:27-35

Warm Hearts and Heedful Ears

Baruch, secretary to the prophet Jeremiah, sets down his thoughts in poetry and prose. Today we reflect with him on God’s promises recalled.

God says: For I know they will not heed me, because they are a stiff-necked people. But in the land of their captivity they shall have a change of heart; they shall know that I, the Lord, am their God. I will give them hearts and heedful ears; and they shall praise me in the land of their captivity, and shall invoke my name. Then they shall turn back from their stiff-necked stubbornness, and from their evil deeds . . .

listening-ear1[1]Not much has changed about the human race since ancient days; we are still a stubborn and stiff-necked people who are reluctant to heed God’s word. We harden our hearts so that we do not feel another’s pain. We hold hard opinions to cover our fear. We exclude those on the margin with the easy argument that our own hard work has brought us prosperity. Our stubbornness brings us to the captivity of our fears where we perhaps finally have a change of heart and listen for God’s word.

We so often complain about what is wrong with the world when we spread rumors, stir up rancor, and add to the negativity that we so heavily criticize. So let us recall God’s promises and look to improve ourselves rather than others. Let us praise God even though we may be held captive by our fears. Let us open our own ears and soften our own hearts.L et us invoke God’s name and let us turn back from our stiff-necked stubbornness and our own dark deeds.

And let us re-discover God’s gift to us of open, warm hearts and eager, heedful ears.


To learn more about softening hard hearts, click on the heart image above or go to: http://mindsightcoaching.com/softening-the-heart/

For some practical hints on how to listen well, click on the image of the ear or go to: http://christopherwitt.com/how-to-improve-your-listening-skills/

Read Full Post »


Friday, September 4, 2020

imagesCAUA46DLProverbs 2

The Blessings of Wisdom

For the last two weeks we have spent time with the opening chapters of Proverbs reflecting on the nature and blessings of Wisdom. What does she look like? Where do we find her? How do we discern true Wisdom from false? What can be gained by sitting at Wisdom’s knee?  Te answers to these questions are outlined in Chapter 2. And they are well worth sorting out and sharing.

One of the qualities of Wisdom is that she is both seen and felt. We turn our ear, incline our heart. We must listen and empathize. We must put aside old parameters and open ourselves to the suffering of others. We put away pat answers and old prejudices. We unbend our stiff necks. We thaw our hardened hearts.

Another of the qualities of Wisdom is that she is a treasure more valuable than any imaginable and yet she is under our noses at all times. She is elusive and yet as tactile as silver. She is mysterious and yet as clear as daylight. She brings the security of knowledge, understanding, counsel, rectitude, justice, honesty and discretion. She saves us from darkness, perversity, crooked paths and those who commit evil.

The meaning of these verses is clear. Those who succumb to the adulteress are lured away by smooth words. Those who look for easy relationships with no thought of commitment and no promise of constancy sink down to death. Closed self-importance and disdain for the pain of others. Self-reliance and a willful disregard for the vulnerable. These are the tendrils of unwise thinking that draw us into the crooked paths of the wicked.

Listening and opening ourselves to the suffering of others. Reliance on God and a willingness to change direction when called by God. By these paths will we find Wisdom. We may come upon her abruptly, or we may see her first from afar and struggle to reach her; but no matter the way our path will be made straight.  hose who seek Wisdom are protected by God and by Wisdom herself.  Of this we are assured.

The choice laid before us could not be more stark or more important: we may be cut off from the land and rooted out . . . or we may dwell in the land and remain in it. These are the blessings of Wisdom.T hey are many, transforming and vital. Let us turn the ear, let us incline the heart, and let us call out to Wisdom and seek her like silver.  This is all the security we will ever need.


A re-post from September 7, 2013.

Image from: http://www.weidknecht.com/2013/02/proverbs-220.html

Read Full Post »


Saturday, June 6, 2020

John 6 Bread of LifeDeuteronomy 10:12-22

God’s Work

Circumcise your hearts and be no longer stiff-necked.

This is a verse we can never hear too often.  In Chapters 4 through 11 of this book, Moses preaches to his people about the Law of the covenant which God shares with them.  In this way, the book is another form of communication with God – and Moses here is motivating obedience, encouraging reform.  (Mays 195)  “Because God elected this tiny, enslaved people, they should now keep his law.  Election requires internal circumcision, the removal of any obstacle to willing obedience.  God’s greatness is reflected in concern for the marginal people in society, a concern characteristic of the law that will follow”.  (Mays 200)

This is a heavy challenge for us in that we must be willing to remove anything from our lives which separates us from God.  These obstacles may be people, places, habits, or attitudes which inhibit us from seeing ourselves clearly.  What we often forget is that we are here to have our rough edges smoothed, our wrinkles ironed out, and our branches pruned and disciplined.  And no matter how often we avoid learning a lesson, God will continue to send us new lesson plans through which to experience the freedom he wishes for each of us . . . he loves us this much.  We might try to pick and choose the messages we want to hear.  We might think that we can pick and choose among the many seminars God has prepared for us.  Yet in the end, we will find that the very people, places, habits and attitudes we value might be our obstacles.  And these obstacles must be dealt with.  How do we know what to avoid in life and what to take on?  How do we know what is God’s work and what is the work we have decided for ourselves is best, perhaps against God’s recommendation?

We hear that answer in today’s Gospel message from John 6: Jesus answered them and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent”.  Jesus’ questioners ask for a sign that they might believe, saying that God sent manna to the Hebrews in the desert to sustain them in their time of distress and to show them that Moses was their shepherd.  Jesus says to these doubters, “I am the bread of life; whoever believes in me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst”. 

The crowd murmurs that they do not believe that this Jesus, the son of the carpenter Joseph whom they knew, can be the bread of heaven – the stuff that sustains us eternally.  And so the questioners go away, thinking that rejection of Jesus is a solid decision.  Jesus questions the twelve who follow him, asking why they, too, do not leave.  They reply, Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.

When we become confused by life, when we are tired out from overcoming the obstacles, when we become anxious about the future, worry about the past and forget the present, we are doing our own work rather than God’s.  When we become consumed by plans for ourselves rather than following through with the life that best suits God’s plan, we deceive ourselves.

We have been called.  We have work to attend to.  We can invent our own agenda, we might design our own schedule and routine.  Or . . . we can perform the work lying, waiting in our hands.  This is God’s work and there is no safer place to be, no firmer ground to stand on, no toil more rewarding.  So let us remove the obstacles before us and roll up our sleeves. For there is God’s work to be done!


Image from: http://covingtonfumc.com/templates/System/details.asp?id=29885&PID=798500

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 195 and 200. Print.

First written on August 2, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

Read Full Post »


John 16: Persecution Predicted

Tuesday, June 25, 2019 

Joy on stone . . .

We have never been told that apostleship is easy.  It has never been said that discipleship is easily lived.  What we have been told, and what has been said is this: your mourning will turn into joy, your reward will be great.

In this chapter Jesus speaks frankly, honestly and openly with his friends.  He assures them that once he goes their life will become difficult.  He reminds them that this is God’s plan and that once he, Jesus, has made his Exodus, the Holy Spirit will come to live with them – to continue to guide, protect and encourage them.

The apostles – and we – stumble through his meaning.  What is this little while of which Jesus speaks?  Jesus tells them that they must begin to petition the Father in Jesus’ name.  And suddenly these followers of the Christ begin to focus on the coming event: The Resurrection which Jesus predicts.  Suddenly, because they are familiar with all of the predictions made in their Testament of Torah, Wisdom and Prophets, they begin to understand that persecution must follow because Jesus is God.

In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.

If we are sailing easily through life’s storms, we must be ignoring some of our assignments.  If we are never challenged by the headlines, by our friends, by our dear ones, we must not be living in the now.  When we hear our thinking going toward “making nice”, “not wanting to upset anyone”, “ignoring something until it goes away or someone else takes care of it”, then we know that we are still stumbling through the meaning of the Christ’s words which he speaks to us today in Chapter 16 of John.

We must not be disheartened when we meet stiff necks, hard hearts, personal agendas.  We must call upon Christ to bring us hope, call upon the Holy Spirit to bring us comfort, call upon the Father to bolster our faith that all harm will be turned to good . . . and we must step fully into the arena of life.

And so we pray . . .

Jesus, God, Holy Comforter, we know that you will never lead us falsely, yet we fear the coming storm.  We doubt our own ability to follow you.  We know that you are always with us, yet your presence is sometimes difficult to feel.  We doubt our own steadfastness.  We know that your words are true, because you are Truth.  We know that your words are loving, because you are Love.  We know that the darkness is shattered by your presence, because you are Light.  Bolster us with confidence, send us courage, because we know of the persecution of this world . . . and we also know that you have already conquered this world.  We ought not to fear, but we are human.  Send us your strength.  Teach us how to find joy in the stony path of life. Remind us that joy will come of our mourning.  Amen. 


First written on June 11, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

For a reflection on living in joy click on the image above or go to: http://www.writtencreations.com/blog/2012/05/30/living-in-joy/

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: